Hidalgo Co. Health Officials Issue Alert on Increase of Foodborne Illness
EDINBURG – Hidalgo County health officials are issuing out an alert on a foodborne illness.
More people are falling sick to a parasite found in leafy vegetables and fruits.
It’s not just affecting Hidalgo County, but the rest of the country.
Out of the nearly 300 cases reported in the United States, Hidalgo County claims 70 cases; there is 150 around Texas.
The parasite known as cyclosporiasis.
It’s not transmitted from person-to-person, but can be hiding in leafy vegetables or even fruits bearing leaves.
Contaminated irrigation water or dirty water used to wash the produce can cause the parasite to appear.
Local, state and federal agencies are working to find the source.
“We don't know where the produce is coming from. A lot of people think that it all comes from Mexico. It doesn't,” said Eddie Olivarez, the chief administrative officer at Hidalgo County Health and Human Services. “We have produce coming in from Asia. We have produce coming in from South America. We have produce coming in from other parts of the United States that might have complications. So, it's not the stereotype of just it being from Mexico.”
If you purchase food from farmers markets or flea markets, you’re advised to ask where the produce comes from and whether that country is known to have problems with clean irrigation water.
After buying produce from the store or markets, you’re encouraged to do the following:
- Wash your hands before and after handling produce
- Scrub and wash the vegetables or fruits thoroughly and disinfect the items used to clean them
- Store the produce separately from other items in the refrigerator
It can take up to a week to see the symptoms of cyclosporiasis.
Olivarez says they don’t know why the county claims about 23% of the nationwide cases.
The health department is working to study that with state and federal agencies.
Local officials believe it could be due to more vigilance since more doctors are testing for it.
If you think you may have this intestinal illness, you’re encouraged to ask for a test.
“The easy fix to avoid this illness is to make sure you wash your hands, wash all your fruits and vegetables, and properly store the food,” said Olivarez.
Symptoms of cyclosporiasis include the following:
- Watery diarrhea (most common)
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Increased gas
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